Simon & Schuster, £12.99. Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Captured, By Neil Cross
Thursday 14 January 2010
On a junior-school trip to Glastonbury, Callie Barton held Kenny Drummond's hand, kindling a tongue-tied ardour he nurtured at a distance. In their final year Callie left, without explanation, leaving Kenny with his eccentric and depressive father Aled, a potter who riffed on Arthurian mythology and made loving sketches of his awkward son.
Three decades later, after a few creative jobs and a decade painting portraits in his remote cottage, Kenny is diagnosed with a malignant brain cancer. Refusing chemotherapy, he decides to use his final six weeks to "put things right" with four people he thinks he has let down. Two are so incidental to Neil Cross's story they all but constitute red herrings; another is the background presence of Kenny's ex-wife. Which leaves Callie. After a slow and somewhat sentimental start, Captured accelerates once Kenny gets on to her trail.
Captured is not, primarily, a mystery, but a novel of obsession. Callie married Reese, a landscape gardener in Bath; he mistreated her; she disappeared. Kenny stalks Reese, determined to extract a confession to her murder. The pressure of limited time to settle affairs may account for changes of behaviour, but Kenny's psychotic engagement with Reese defies credibility. At one point in his blood-soaked vendetta, Kenny ponders how a friend might react on learning "what kind of creature Kenny had become, in the name of pure love and dead days". This rings hollow.
The crucial flaw in the plot is that Cross has not laid any groundwork for "pure love" (or even sustained interest), so even life-threatening tumours fail to account for a sudden and surprisingly accomplished torture spree from a mild-mannered artist. The dislocation between gory episodes and Kenny's gentle provenance leave the reader more bewildered than gripped. Natural History, a previous domestic thriller, demonstrated the author's skill with taut plotting and a sharp twist; Captured has similar pace and narrative tension, but remains emotionally unconvincing.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
The New York Times sparks criticism after releasing an all-white reading list
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show's most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people